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Online gaming addiction may be caused by escapism – the need to escape reality

The research, conducted by Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, revealed that both professional esport players and recreational gamers can develop internet gaming disorder if their intense immersion in gaming is associated with escapism.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, Hungary, reveals that both professional electronic sports (esport) players and recreational gamers can be at risk of developing internet gaming disorder if their intense immersion in gaming is associated with escapism. The study also highlights some differences in the motivational factors that drive the two groups. The findings of the study have practical and policy implications that can help prevent and treat gaming disorders.

Understanding Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD)

IGD is described as a severe behavioral pattern that significantly impairs personal, family, social, educational, and occupational functioning, according to leading classification manuals such as DSM-5 and ICD-11. Although the condition affects only a minority of gamers, it is associated with depression, anxiety, and social anxiety. The condition is linked to gamers playing video games to escape real-life problems. This escapism is considered a negative motivation that can predict gaming disorder.

Key findings

The researchers surveyed close to 4,300 recreational and esport gamers to collect data on game time, gaming motivations, presence and severity of gaming disorder, and psychiatric symptoms. The study found that both recreational gamers and esport players can be at risk of developing internet gaming disorder when their intense immersion in gaming is linked to escapism.

The study also revealed that esport gamers spent significantly more time playing video games both on weekdays and weekends than recreational gamers. Esport gamers scored higher on social, competition, and skill development gaming motivations than recreational gamers. In both groups, escapism appeared to be the common predictor of gaming disorder. In the esport group, escapism was the only motivation that had a mediating effect, while in the recreational group, competition, fantasy, and coping also showed weak or negative association with gaming disorder.

Implications of the study

The findings of the study have practical and policy implications that can help prevent and treat gaming disorders. The researchers suggest that esports governing bodies have a duty of care to ensure that individuals who engage in the sport, and subsequently develop problems, get help, support, and treatment if they need it. The study also suggests that recognizing the risks of gaming disorders can lead to increased support methods, such as mental training, optimal self-esteem, and adaptive coping strategies for competitive situations.

Different mechanisms and psychological backgrounds

The way in which both esport gamers, recreational gamers and other gamers, such as those who use an online casino, escape from reality into virtual worlds may be the result of different mechanisms and psychological backgrounds. In some pro players, mental health status (stress level, psychosocial well-being, self-esteem) can modify the effect of escapism in the development of gaming disorder.

The study highlights that some esport players might be addicted to gaming, just like professional poker players being addicted to gambling or professional athletes being addicted to exercise.

Esport: A popular career option among adolescents and young adults

The number of competitive gamers playing professionally has increased steadily since the early 2000s, and they are predominantly male. According to a recent online survey, esport is a popular career option among adolescents and young adults (below 24 years).

Developing preventive, intervention, and treatment programs

The study suggests that future research should focus on exploring escapism’s mechanism in different subgroups of gamers in relation to problematic gaming to help the development of prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. Recognizing their risks can lead to increased support methods, such as mental training, optimal self-esteem, and adaptive coping strategies for competitive situations.

Conclusion

The findings of this study provide important insights into the development of internet gaming disorder among both recreational and esport gamers. The study highlights the importance of understanding the motivations behind gaming and the potential risks of excessive immersion in these activities.

Esport governing bodies and gaming companies should take note of these findings and use them to create healthier and safer gaming environments for players. Additionally, mental health professionals and researchers should continue to explore the relationship between escapism and problematic gaming in order to develop effective prevention and treatment programs.

As the popularity of online gaming and gambling continues to grow, it’s important to remain vigilant about the potential risks and consequences. While these activities can be fun and rewarding, they can also have negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing if not used responsibly.

Zoran Markovic

Zoran Markovic is a reporter at Breakthrough.

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